As Los Angeles holds its collective celebratory breath, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Tinseltown's first Stanley Cup, a juicy billionaire boys' club reality show is unfolding behind the scenes that seems only fitting for the Entertainment Capital of the Universe.
Intrigue in L.A.? You better believe it.
At the center of it all are the Kings' two co-owners: 71-year-old $7 billion man Philip Anschutz, the rarely seen entrepreneur (at right), and real estate mogul Ed Roski, Jr. (below).
While their Kings teeter on the verge of becoming part of the city's championship landscape once reserved for the Lakers and Dodgers, Anschutz and Roski are big rivals when it comes to pro football.
They are going to head to head against each other as they dangle an even bigger carrot in front of Angelinos: The return of an NFL team they can call their own.
So perhaps, it seems only appropriate that a Kings championship celebration could potentially bring Anschutz and Roski together -- at center ice -- for the entire world to see, making for a perfect Hollywood ending in Hockeytown West.
"The storyline is delicious," says Marc Ganis, president SportsCorp, a Chicago-based sports business-consulting firm.
Los Angeles' history of trying to attract the NFL for the first time since 1995 has been well documented as one developer after another has pitched a home for a football franchise everywhere from Anaheim to Carson and Inglewood and all points in between.
But it's now Anschutz and his glitzy downtown stadium plan vs. Roski, who has offered up 600 hillside acres in the City of Industry. They stand against each other, battling it out while their shared hockey interest remains one victory away from championship glory.
In a world of big business and high finance, though, working together in one venture while competing on another is far from anything new. Anschutz and Roski worked together in 1998 to build Staples Center, helping reshape the city's downtown region.
But for all intents and purposes, that's where the shared vision between Anschutz and Roski seemingly ends.
Since they developed their own NFL proposals, the two have hunkered down, sometimes firing public shots at the other in an attempt to see their respective plans into fruition.
"When you're talking about people and business executives and magnates at that level, it's really not that uncommon to be allies one day and adversaries another," says David Carter, professor of sports business at USC's Marshall School of Business. "These are industrialists, these are billionaires and their goals and interests sometimes diverge sometimes."
That's been the case with the two NFL proposals.
Anschutz, who heads up the Denver-based Anschutz Entertainment Group, has targeted L.A. Live, the city's downtown bustling entertainment strip to house a stadium that already has secured naming rights: Farmers Field.
Originally unwilling to spend his own money to buy an NFL franchise that would call Los Angeles home, Anschutz reversed his field earlier this year, committing himself to do whatever necessary to make his project a reality.
"Phil is now completely engaged in this process," AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke told The Los Angeles Times in April. "The only thing he won't do is get leveraged to the point of doing a stupid deal on a team.
"But if this is about finding a win-win for the NFL and Phil Anschutz, he is prepared to write that check right now."
Roski, who owns Majestic Reality, Inc., has been an active participant in bringing the NFL back to Los Angeles since 1996. His Los Angeles Stadium, which he proposes to build into a hillside to cut down on construction costs, would be located 20 miles outside Los Angeles to better serve Southern California.
"You need to put a facility right in the center of things," Roski says in a promotional video for his proposed stadium plan. "This is the only location that services each of the 15 million people in this area."
But each plan, at one time or another, has been projected to be the favorite to earn the bid. This week, Los Angeles city councilman Bill Rosendahl said the AEG plan as it relates to environmental and traffic issues was too vague. Earlier this year, the Anschutz downtown deal was believed to be dead, apparently paving the way for Roski.
But the Roski proposal has also had its detractors, many of whom believe if the NFL is to return to Los Angeles, it will take place center stage in the middle of all of the city's glitz and glamour, where the Kings and Lakers and Clippers already play.
The battle has raged not only within business circles but in media coverage, making this head-to-head confrontation much different than your average real estate deal.
"Most ventures aren't this visible with this much of a public relations effort behind their projects," Ganis says. "It's usually much quieter.
"It's sometimes the P.R. aspect of it that sometimes makes things testier than they need to be."
But Carter says while a distance may exist between rank-and-file employees of both companies, he says because of the level of success Anschutz and Roski have reached, they have found a way to remain professional as it relates to their competing business interests.
At the end of the day, Carter says, business is business.
Even as their shared property -- the Kings -- are only one game away from a Stanley Cup championship.
"They have common business interests and they also share competing interests," says Carter, who has dealt professionally with both Anschutz and Roski. "All the while, it's not all about business. At some point, personalities probably enter into it, but I don't think they take business personally.
"I think they take business for the face of business."
Whether a Stanley Cup brings the two men face-to-face is yet to be seen. Anschutz sightings have been rare at Kings games this season, but the culmination of a magical playoff run that hasn't included a road loss, could change that.
The occasion could put the two co-owners on the same stage, putting their football plans on hold temporarily and creating a dramatic and scintillating reunion, putting the two NFL rivals on the same stage.
Like it or not.
"That's not to say they're hanging out having a glass of wine before the Stanley Cup or hoisting the Cup together," Carter says. "But certainly, they will be co-existing if this championship comes to pass -- they'll have to."
The setting, Ganis says, couldn't be more appropriate.
In a city that loves a winner, nothing brings residents together more than a title -- one that has included celebrity sightings throughout the Kings’ Stanley Cup run. But in typical L.A. fashion, where there's glitz, drama can't be too far behind, setting the stage for a Anschutz-Roski hockey love-fest.
"There certainly have been moments when they were trashing each other's plans when there had to be some resentment, but these are people who have been partners for years," Ganis says.
"But if Phil and Ed Roski are both there, I think they will be absolute gentlemen to one another. I wouldn't expect them to compete with each other as part of the celebration for the Kings."
But as soon as it's over, the two business men will return to their respective corners, hoping to finalize a deal and make an NFL dream – both for them and Los Angeles -- a reality.
But until a final decision is made -- likely months after the Kings would celebrate their Stanley Cup triumph -- the NFL sweepstakes in L.A. will continue. Handicapping the race, Carter says, has always been a dangerous proposition, adding to the intrigue between the two principal players.
But between now and then, Ganis expects the L.A. drama to continue to play out, filled with intrigue and twists and turns that have long been commonplace around Hollywood.
The Anschutz-Roski storyline is likely to be no different.
"It's fun to watch and talk about," Ganis says. "And it's fun to try and speculate what's churning behind the smiles."
Only in L.A.
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